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Could Minnesota be next to legalize marijuana?

Governor-elect Tim Walz said while he supports the legalization of recreational marijuana, it will not be a main focus for him during the upcoming legislative session.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With about a month to go before the start of the 91st Session of the Minnesota Legislature, a topic making headlines is the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana in the state.

"I think legalization of marijuana will be one of the items on the agenda," said David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University.

While Schultz said he expects the topic to come up this legislative session, he's not sure it will be a top priority.

"You have to pass the tax bill, which was not passed last year. You have tax conformity; you've got the budget this year; you've got a bonding bill. There's a lot of stuff on the agenda," Schultz said.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states and in Washington, D.C. This week, Michigan will become the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana.

Minnesota lawmakers legalized medical marijuana in 2014.

Related: Alzheimer's added as qualifier for medical marijuana

Governor-elect Tim Walz told KARE 11 in a statement, "While issues like healthcare, education, and transportation will be my main legislative focuses this session, I fully support the legalization of recreational marijuana. By doing so in a responsible manner and encouraging 'Minnesota Grown' products, we could reduce crime, create jobs, and boost our economy."

A Pew Research Center survey from October found that about six in 10 Americans (62 percent) say the use of marijuana should be legalized.

The Minnesota Daily first reported on a rise of marijuana use among students at the University of Minnesota.

Boynton Health's 2018 College Student Health Survey, released earlier this month, found that 22 percent of students ages 18-24 reported marijuana use within the past 30 days—up 5 percent from 2015.

"We do see a relationship between increase or frequent marijuana use and lower GPAs. That association is there. We can't say cause but that association is there," said David Golden, director of public health and communications at Boynton Health.

The survey also found more than 32 percent of all students surveyed had used marijuana within the past 12 months. Students ages 18-24 used marijuana more compared to students age 25 and older, according to the survey.

"We've seen this rate ticking up and so the question becomes, 'Is that a good thing or a bad thing?' We think there's some negatives to it but to tell you the truth marijuana hasn't been researched in the same way that alcohol has, or tobacco has, because... it's illegal," Golden said.

Schultz said with public opinion shifting, and support of legalization from Governor-elect Walz and other Democrats, "that will probably give it some opportunity to be able to have a serious hearing this legislative session. Whether or not it would pass in a first session or take a couple of years, I don't know."

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